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December 6, 2021

Report: CT had among highest telehealth usage in 2020

Photo | Pixabay

Connecticut was quicker than most states to adapt to remote health services during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, according to a new report from federal health officials.

A review by the Office of Health Policy, a unit of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found that 7.2% of healthcare visits by state residents covered by Medicare’s Part B in 2020 were conducted via telehealth channels, giving Connecticut one of the highest telehealth utilization rates in the country, alongside several other New England states.

Researchers suggested that COVID-19’s early appearance in the Northeast motivated patients there to eschew in-person visits out of fear of contracting the virus.

Massachusetts had the highest rate of telehealth utilization among Medicare Part B beneficiaries, at 10.6% of visits, followed by Vermont at 9.8% and Rhode Island at 8.9%.

Prior to the pandemic, more heavily urbanized states, including much of the Northeast, saw much lower telehealth usage, mainly because Medicare restricted coverage for telehealth to providers in rural areas. In 2019, the leading states for telehealth adoption were Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Alaska.

“As a result of the Medicare telehealth flexibilities introduced during the pandemic, telehealth use in 2020 grew and shifted into more urban states, with the highest rates of telehealth in the Northeast and in the West (particularly California),” the study’s authors wrote. “Similar geographic patterns of telehealth have been observed in private claims data for commercial payers. This may be a reflection of a combination of factors, including different state telehealth policies during the pandemic, existing provider capacity and readiness for rapidly expanding telehealth and high rates of COVID-19 case precipitating lock-downs, particularly in the early months of the pandemic.”

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